Marc Netka’s standout, no-nonsense approach to providing schools with needed technology
INTERVIEW | by Victor Rivero
They’re on the Inc. 500 list, but that doesn’t mean they’re high rollers by any measure. In fact, they’re just a bunch of regular guys who understand all too well what schools are going through. Marc Netka (pictured with partners Clark Buch, middle and Jim Stratton, right) originally started a company called EduTech Group, in 2001, which later became School Tech Supply. “I had been working for a wholesaler of used computer equipment, who ran into some personal and financial problems,” he explains. “At the time, California had a program called the Digital High School, which was giving grant money to all high schools in California, for installation of computers. I thought refurbished IT equipment made a lot of sense at the time.” Marc was right then, and these days, his thoughts make even more sense.
Victor: What does the name mean?
Victor: What is it? Who created it?
Marc: I founded the company as EduTech group in 2001. In 2009, I merged with one of my vendors and re-branded the company as School Tech Supply. Our goal is to help schools solve both of their major problems, when it comes to IT: shrinking budgets in an era of increasing demand (usage), and little-to-no personnel support. We look for technology solutions that are one-third to one-half that of the typical product with no compromise in the learning experience.
Victor: How is it unique from other similar products/services? What companies do you see as in the same market?
Marc: We are primarily a sales and marketing company. We use lead generation marketing to grow our business. My typical competitor has more of a dial for dollars approach—they hire a lot of sales people to make cold calls to generate business. My sales people have not made a cold call in three years.
Victor: When was it developed? What is something interesting or relevant about its development history?
Marc: School Tech Supply was really an outgrowth of the economic meltdown of 2008. Up until that time, I had run a sole proprietorship and was content to keep it small with really just myself and my mother working there. When the public money stopped for a few months in 2008, I had a moment of panic and clarity. I would start each day by going to Starbucks and reading sales and business books, then jot down my ideas in a notebook. I realized that the bad economy presented unique growth opportunities for a business such as mine and I had a lot of ideas as to how to grow it. I also knew that I did not have the resources to do it on my own, so I set out to find a partner. Two weeks later, one of my vendors called me out of the blue and we began our partnership on January 1st, 2010.
Victor: How much does it cost? What are the options?
Victor: What are some examples of it in action?
Marc: Recently saved a school district in Ohio over a $750,000, when they purchased 1,100 STS certified refurbished Dell laptops for a 1-to-1 laptop initiative, instead of new Dell computers.
Victor: Who is it particularly tailored for? Who is it not for?
Victor: What else can you tell educators and other leaders in and around education about the value of School Tech Supply? What makes you say that?
Marc: Demand for technology continues to grow as the money to purchase it continues to be reduced. Since most applications are moving to the cloud, a refurbished computer makes even more sense today. With our Lifetime Parts Warranty, your total cost of ownership is much lower than buying new.
Victor: You recently earned some special recognition. What’s your reaction to that?
Marc: Making the Inc. 500 list definitely is rewarding, especially in this economy. It validates the decisions we made back in 2009 to change the direction of our business, and it reminds me to stay creative in looking at it for the future. Of course, the Inc. 500 in and of itself means little because it doesn’t measure profitability — just revenue growth — but thankfully we’ve been smart and have bottom-line growth to match.
Victor: Any final thoughts about education and technology?
Marc: One man’s junk is another man’s treasure. Many schools retire very usable technology, simply because they can afford to do so, not because it’s necessary. On the flip side, many schools have valuable assets lying around in closets and warehouses and are unaware that it still has usable life. Our Cash for Clunkers program is an attempt to get school districts much-needed money. Much of the equipment we buy back is refurbished and sent to schools with little-to-no money and lower technology requirements. Having all these technology tools available is great, but you still need qualified, creative and motivated teachers to bring it to life for the students.